Semi-final latest — the Whitebank factor

Date published: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
OLDHAM hope the Whitebank factor will work in their favour when they meet in-form North Wales Crusaders at home in Sunday’s iPro Sport Cup semi-final.

Scott Naylor’s men were unbeaten on home soil last season and have been turned over only once at Whitebank in nearly two years.
Since Oxford inflicted a shock 18-16 defeat on April 28, 2013, Roughyeds’ only other loss on their home ground was 23-22 against Rochdale Hornets on September 15 in the play-off series of the same year.
That makes it 18 months and 13 games since Oldham fans last saw their team beaten at Whitebank —- an impressive home run which players and coaching staff don’t want to end.
Hooker Gareth Owen, a comparative newcomer, has only played in the last five games at Whitebank, but he has been made aware of how much it means to the dressing room to send visiting teams away empty handed.
He said: “The lads were proud of last season’s home record, especially as they were the only team in the division to achieve it.
“We don’t want it to end so that in itself will add a little bit of extra spice to Sunday’s semi-final, which is going to be a cracking contest with a lot at stake.”
The winners will face either Swinton Lions or Newcastle Thunder in the final at Blackpool on Saturday, May 23 in a final that will form part of the new Summer Bash for Championship clubs.
Crusaders, fancied by many to become inaugural champions of the restructured League One, have beaten Rochdale (28-4) and Doncaster (40-12) in their last two outings, both at home.
Winger Rob Massam scored four second-half tries in the defeat of Doncaster as Crusaders continued their superb start to the season after coming down from the Championship with four others.
They fielded three former Oldham players in Alex Thompson at centre, Jamie Dallimore at stand-off and Mark Hobson on the bench.
“Our fans need a boost, following relegation, and it would be brilliant to beat Oldham and get to the final after such a difficult season last year,” said coach Anthony Murray.
“To win at Whitebank will be a tall order because Oldham are a well-drilled side. We’ll have to be at our best.”